Is airBaltic Planning United States Flights? How?!

Is airBaltic Planning United States Flights? How?!

31

Latvian flag carrier airBaltic is a fascinating airline. airBaltic has a massive fleet of Airbus A220-300s (the airline hopes to have 100 of these by 2030), with a large network to and from Northern Europe, in particular to Riga, Latvia (RIX), Tallinn, Estonia (TLL), and Vilnius, Lithuania (VNO).

The airline has just made an interesting request with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), and I’m not sure what exactly to make of it (thanks to @IshrionA for flagging this).

airBaltic requests to operate United States flights

airBaltic has filed with the US DOT, requesting permission to operate flights to the United States with its own aircraft. Here’s the request:

In July 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration placed Latvia in Category 1 under its IASA safety program, which now enables AIR BALTIC and other carriers from Latvia to operate to the United States with their own aircraft. Given this development, AIR BALTIC requests that the Department amend its foreign air carrier permit to remove the codeshare only limitation and also grant it exemption authority to operate with its own aircraft the open skies authority set forth in its existing foreign air carrier permit.

As you can see, previously airBaltic’s permission to fly to the United States was limited to codeshare flights, whereby the airline could place its “code” on another airline flying between the countries. Now the airline wants permission to operate these flights with its own aircraft.

The filing doesn’t go into further detail on exactly which routes the airline wants to operate, or which aircraft it will use. Keep in mind Latvia is part of the Open Skies agreement, meaning that the airline can freely add routes between any participating countries, assuming it has the above permission.

airBaltic has an all Airbus A220 fleet

How could airBaltic fly to the United States?

airBaltic’s fleet consists exclusively of Airbus A220s. While those planes are incredibly incredibly capable, they don’t have the range to fly nonstop from Latvia to the United States. With that in mind, a few thoughts:

  • If airBaltic were to launch flights to the United States with its own existing aircraft, a stop would be required along the way, in somewhere like Iceland
  • airBaltic is a very well run and disciplined airline, so this isn’t some government-owned vanity project that will light money on fire for prestige
  • The timing here is interesting, because in late 2023, airBaltic and Delta launched a partnership, though it has limited implications as of now, since Delta doesn’t fly to any of airBaltic’s hubs
  • Is it possible that airBaltic plans on picking up one or two wide body aircraft in order to fly to the United States? I have to assume that’s not the case, because the airline is disciplined, and I can’t imagine that would make money on a year-round basis
  • In November 2023, airBaltic’s CEO was quoted as saying “there will be no direct flights to the US yet,” and that “it has to be an economically logical step”
An Airbus A220 would have to stop along the way

I’m honestly not sure what exactly to make of this. Seeking regulatory approval for something doesn’t necessarily mean an airline has immediate plans to do something. At the same time, airlines don’t typically seek regulatory approval for something that’s not realistic under current conditions.

So for now we’ll mark this as “developing.” I will say that I find it unlikely that airBaltic would launch transatlantic flights with its current fleet, but I could be wrong.

Will airBaltic fly to the United States?

Bottom line

airBaltic has filed with the US Department of Transportation, requesting permission to fly to the United States with its own aircraft. The catch is that airBaltic only has A220s, and those can’t fly nonstop from Northern Europe to the United States.

I’m curious to see what unfolds here, because this has to be one of the more unusual requests we’ve seen from a legitimate airline…

What do you think airBaltic’s plans are for the United States?

Conversations (31)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Mark Guest

    This airline is almost completely owned by the government of Latvia, just FYI.

  2. Pierre Malherbe Guest

    Maybe A 321 XLR

  3. Exit Row Seat Guest

    Nothing to gain with TATL service. As recently speculated, B6 still having problems developing a profitable Europa footprint. Let Delta do the heavy work.
    Greater returns via "wet leasing" to other Euro airlines considering AirBaltic wants a fleet of 100 in the near future. Need to keep all those airframes and crews busy.

  4. Alex Guest

    It will replace SAS Copenhagen and Stockholm hub and be member of Star Alliance in the future.

    1. VladG Gold

      Why would LH allow that?

  5. TCASAlert Guest

    It's a stretch, but the A220's range is 3,500nm and RIX-BOS is 3,400nm. This is of course if they're looking at flights from RIX, there's potential to stop in DUB which would give them further reach into the US. They're also looking at opening more hubs across Europe. Breeze are already planning Transatlantic flights on the A220, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a European carrier doing this too.

  6. EJC Guest

    If I recall correctly Air Baltic's CEO has repeatedly stated they were interested in the A321's longer ranged variants so I would hazard a guess they may go for these.

  7. Tony Guest

    Latvia-Azores-Boston/JFK? Latvia-Bilbao-JFK? Latvia-Shannon-to any US destination to take advantage of US Customs pre-clearance in Ireland.

  8. Peter Frausing Guest

    Air Baltic recently made a hub in Gran Canaria. Could an A220 make the distance to - say - Miami?

  9. Kredie Guest

    Interesting - they obviously have massive feed from ex-USSR and the broader region.

    1. VladG Gold

      Not since the Russian sanctions they don't.

  10. Roberto Guest

    “iT’s ThA a220 AlLiAnCe” - Tim Dunn

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      You noticed that SkyTeam carriers operate by far the majority of A220s?

    2. Roberto Guest

      It’s such a successful aircraft that Air Baltic wet leases half its fleet and KA (your new wet dream) is dumping their sub fleet instead of ordering more. Twit. (Replace the “i” with an “a”)

  11. Reed Guest

    Air Baltic should buy the Airbus A330neo-800. Then they could fly non stop to the USA.

  12. Matthew Guest

    The massive A220 fleet is partly oversized during European winter. But there is demand Caribbean-US exactly during this time. A temporary hub in a French/Dutch Caribbean Island to operate flights to the US would likely make sense.

  13. TooGoodToBeTrue Guest

    Airbaltic became ACMI company, this summer 17 planes will be flying for Lufthansa group. Permission to fly in US, would enable BT to operate as ACMI for US companies. There might be talks with US carriers to operate as ACMI. Chances that BT will open transatlantic routes in the near future for its own network is minimal.

  14. vlcnc Guest

    Air Baltic also wet leases to many carriers around Europe. It is also not averse at operating from bases not in its 'home' countries of Latvia, Estona, and Lithuania. I wouldn't be surprised if this to start flights from another country. There are certain airports where there is no transatlantic flights but where there has been previous service and deman. It would be possible with A220 - for example London City, although that is a...

    Air Baltic also wet leases to many carriers around Europe. It is also not averse at operating from bases not in its 'home' countries of Latvia, Estona, and Lithuania. I wouldn't be surprised if this to start flights from another country. There are certain airports where there is no transatlantic flights but where there has been previous service and deman. It would be possible with A220 - for example London City, although that is a bit more complicated as the UK has now left the EU. Milan Linate would be another one (as the Milanese hate using Malpensa due to how far away it is), although not sure if the A220 quite has the range for that.

    1. TooGoodToBeTrue Guest

      A220-300 which airBaltic has its not certified/approved to operate in London City.

    2. Barbarella Guest

      Airbus and AirBaltic have announced some time ago that they are working on steep approach certification to serve LCY with the A220-300. This is the only airport they can't fly to. Timeline has not been communicated.

      I don't see them flying TATL from there without a new Business Class product for those flights. Let alone questions of takeoff weight and range.

      Most likely they just to be able to wet lease in the US.

    3. Leo Guest

      They already do. airBaltic have some planes based in Gran Canaria (though only during the winter season) and Tampere.

  15. Samo Guest

    Air Baltic has plans to go for pan-European approach rather than operating solely from Baltic hubs. They intend to base a couple of their aircraft around the continent in the upcoming years. Thus one shouldn't think of it solely in terms of Baltics - US routes.

    Besides, no one said this is intended for regular flights. They may only have some charters in mind.

  16. Eve Guest

    As someone who might or might not know pilots working in BT, there are internal talks of the airline looking to acquire widebodies from Airbus and interest from LH in the near future (though the latter is more publicly rumored for the past few years due to BT’s relationship with Swiss)

  17. mk Guest

    This fascinating airline sits constantly pretty close to bankruptcy as they are leveraged to the max. basically question is if EU rules stay the same to get Latvian state to bail them out.

  18. Thomas Christoffersen Guest

    Maybe it does not have to be a widebody, RIX and TLL sits nicely within Airbus A321XLR range to multiple points in the US and Canada.
    Beeing a valued customer, Airbus might move the forward to some attractive production slots?

    1. UncleRonnie Gold

      I think airlines everywhere are offering up their first-born child to get their hands on the new XLR.

  19. InceptionCat Gold

    There was talk of them getting the A330-800neo some months ago. Talk was that they could fill this plane during winters to Dubai and elsewhere in Summer.

  20. Bruno Guest

    About 10 years ago Uzbekistan Airways served RIX-JFK as 5th freedom.
    I believe Air Baltic had a codeshare on these flights.

  21. keitherson Guest

    Air Baltic will follow the Air Serbia model: get a plane from daddy Delta.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      don't rule it out. Air Baltic has deepened its codeshare with SkyTeam airlines and DL.
      Delta could easily sell a couple A330-200s

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Matthew Guest

The massive A220 fleet is partly oversized during European winter. But there is demand Caribbean-US exactly during this time. A temporary hub in a French/Dutch Caribbean Island to operate flights to the US would likely make sense.

2
Alex Guest

It will replace SAS Copenhagen and Stockholm hub and be member of Star Alliance in the future.

1
TCASAlert Guest

It's a stretch, but the A220's range is 3,500nm and RIX-BOS is 3,400nm. This is of course if they're looking at flights from RIX, there's potential to stop in DUB which would give them further reach into the US. They're also looking at opening more hubs across Europe. Breeze are already planning Transatlantic flights on the A220, so it wouldn't be surprising to see a European carrier doing this too.

1
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT